SAN JOSE, Calif. — A software engineer trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with his wife designed a wearable vibrator activated by a mobile app that's putting a little buzz into the Internet of Things. The outlook for Vibease is so frothy that designer and founder Dema Tio quit his job at a Boston investment bank to focus on his startup -- and he has plenty of advice to offer on both sexuality and entrepreneurship.
Away from his wife, "we were connected through Skype, [but] physical intimacy was the hardest part," Tio said in an email exchange. "We couldn't find a solution that was easy to use and not invasive [so] I thought I'd make it my own as a fun project," he said, describing himself as a "maker."
"Since I was young I've liked to open up electronic stuff, although I wasn't able to put it back most of the time," said Tio who eventually got a degree in software engineering. "Computers and software captured my heart, I could make more things on a computer."
Tio is not shy about describing how the device works and how it evolved.
"Our early design was a bullet vibrator with a cable attached to controller box [but] a few testers complained about the wire and [how] they had to hold the vibrator. With one hand texting and the other hand holding the vibrator, it was just awkward -- that's why we made it wearable, 100 percent hands free."
The woman wearing the vibrator controls Bluetooth signals to the device, but can give permission to someone's remote smartphone to operate the vibrator. The app provides secure communications links, Tio said.
"The essence of long distance intimacy is not about a remote control vibrator, but intimate communication with physical stimulation."
Users have pre-ordered 2,000 Vibease units for November delivery.
So far reviews submitted via anonymous surveys have been "very positive," and 2,000 Vibease devices have been sold at $79 on pre-order for November release. "Along the way, Vibease evolved to serve the needs of women that want to have their own private moments," Tio says.
Not everyone understands the concept. "Many men asked us, why the shape is small because it didn't represent the 'real thing.' This is the misconception most men had.
"Vibease is designed for clitoral stimulation [and] studies show more than 80 percent women attain orgasm due to some clitoral stimulation. I did a lot of research about female orgasm, and I was surprised to learn that more than half of all women didn't attain orgasm through their relationships.
"Not many people know the vibrator was invented by a medical doctor as a medical device to 'cure lack of orgasm,' " he told us, pointing to a dramatization of that history.